Cheney Lashes Out at Democrats for War-Funding Bill

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 27, 2007; 5:46 PM

Vice President Cheney today lashed out at congressional Democrats for passing a war-funding bill that mandates troop withdrawals from Iraq, saying opponents of the four-year-old conflict are playing into the hands of the al-Qaeda terrorist group.

"The Democrats' attempt to micromanage our commanders is unwise and it's a perilous endeavor," Cheney said at a political fundraiser in Tulsa, Okla. "It's impossible to argue that an unconditional timetable for retreat could serve the security interests of the United States or those of our friends in the region. Instead, it sends a message to our enemies that the calendar is their friend, that all they have to do is wait us out. Wait for the date certain, and claim victory the day after."

Quoting threatening statements allegedly made by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Cheney asserted that top Democrats, from party chairman Howard Dean to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), do not understand the importance of Iraq to winning the war on terror.

"Their prevailing mindset, combined with a series of ill-considered actions in the House and Senate over the last several months," Cheney said, "causes me to wonder whether today's Democratic leaders fully appreciate the nature of this danger that the country faces in the war on terror -- a war that was declared against us by jihadists; a war in which the United States went on offense after 9/11; a war whose central front, in the opinion and actions of the enemy, is Iraq."

This week, the House and Senate approved a $124 billion war spending bill that would force troop withdrawals to begin as early as July 1. President Bush has vowed to veto the bill, saying such a timetable would embolden the enemy.

Reid, on the Senate floor before the bill was passed yesterday, called on Bush to reconsider his veto threat.

"In the same spirit of compromise and bipartisanship with which the bill was written, we hope the president will reconsider his intransigence and his refusal to listen to the American people," Reid said. "This is a good bill. It provides for the safety of our troops abroad. . . . It sets us on a new course, away from a civil war with no end in sight toward a responsible phased redeployment that holds Iraqis accountable."

Cheney was speaking at a fundraiser in a Tulsa hotel for Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.). Outside the downtown hotel, 10 protesters were cited by police for alleged obstruction of free passage and one person was arrested during a protest, the Tulsa World newspaper reported on its Web site this afternoon.

"Opponents of our military action there have called Iraq a diversion from the real conflict, a distraction from the business of fighting and defeating bin Laden and the al Qaeda network," Cheney said. "We hear this over and over again . . . Yet the evidence is flatly to the contrary. And the critics conveniently disregard the words of bin Laden himself: 'The most serious issue today for the whole world,' he said, 'is this Third World War [that is] raging' " in Iraq.

At one point during the 15-minute speech, Cheney singled out "my friend Senator Harry Reid" for criticism, noting as his partisan audience laughed that he "was one of the many Democrats who voted for the use of force in Iraq."

"And they are entitled to now oppose the war," Cheney said. "Yet Americans are entitled to question whether the endlessly shifting positions he and others are taking are a reflection of principle, or of partisanship and blind opposition to the administration."

Cheney also recounted comments Reid made last week that "this war is lost and the surge [of troops] is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq." Reid was referring to the roughly 230 people killed a day earlier -- the worst single-day death toll since Bush ordered more U.S. troops to Iraq in January.

"Behind this current struggle on Capitol Hill, ladies and gentlemen, is a dangerous myth about the war on terror -- the belief on the part of some that if we get out of Iraq before the job is done, we'll be better able to wage the war on terror," Cheney said.

"This myth is dangerous because it represents a complete validation of the strategy of our enemy, of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. The terrorists do not expect to beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have, and they're not likely to try."

On the Senate floor yesterday, Reid suggested that Bush's veto could have dire consequences.

"If the president refuses to change direction, America risks being bogged down in Iraq for years, not months," he said. "For a president that took the country to war under false pretenses, he now needs the courage to admit his policies have failed and work with us to bring the war to a responsible end."

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